Mole Creek, TAS – Day 1 – The Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge kicked off in Tassie’s Mole Creek today and there was plenty of action right from the start challenging the most elite competitors.
Teams were surprised with a mystery activity at the start line and keeping true to its Tasmanian heritage, Challenge competitors were paired up for some doubled-handed sawing in Chudleigh. The teams quickly got stuck into the activity with most completing the sawing within five minutes.
From there, experienced adventure racers, who finished second in last year’s Challenge Richard Ussher and Braden Currie, competing for Team Tasmania, established a big lead on their mountain bikes but quickly fell back when navigation proved a problem.
“I had a bit of a brain explosion in the navigation section. We were rolling along on the bike and went down the wrong road,” said Ussher. “We went a little bit further than was optimum, but we turned around and we kept the foot on the gas. It probably cost us 15 minutes.”
“It’s good to make a mistake early on in the race to sharpen the mind for the rest of the week.”
Despite the mishap, Ussher and Currie still crossed the finish line first, just under 4 minutes ahead of Team Pure Tasmania’s Mark Hinder and Alex Hunt who crossed the finish line in second place. Hinder and Hunt are both Tassie locals and Hinder won the event back in 2011 and finished third last year, but thinks this year’s Challenge so far is the toughest yet.
“That was the probably the hardest day in the 11 days I have competed in the Webber Challenge,” said Hinder. “The second mountain bike ride had quite a lot of steep places and Alex was riding strongly but I was struggling a little bit. Once we got back to the top, I got my energy back but then the paddle had heavy winds the whole way.”
Crossing the finish line third but finishing sixth with time penalties was Team Red Bull, triathlete Courtney Atkinson and Olympic gold medalist kayaker, Kenny Wallace, who faced drama just a few minutes into the first mountain bike leg.
“About 800 metres into it, we just got to the leaders and after the first big hill Kenny’s chain snapped. We had the tools and we fixed it, then kept going,” said Courtney.
Further into the race, Kenny experienced his second mishap when he took a nasty spill on the gravel.
“I think that is where the competitiveness came out. We saw the leader and we probably shouldn’t have been trying to keep up with them. I found a nice bit of gravel, came off the bike and took a bit of skin off. We saw two groups in front of us and I thought I could catch them and hit a loose corner a bit too fast,” said Kenny.
Courtney added, “We can’t help ourselves, we are racers. As soon as we see someone or something that we can chase, we do.”
Seven-times world champion surfer Layne Beachley also took on the Challenge this year and partnered up with triathlete Emma Snowsill and life-coach Nikki Fogden-Moore as Team Spirit. Layne was expecting a difficult day on the course and her expectations proved true.
“I was under no illusion on how hard it was going to be and the Challenge lived up to its expectation and reputation”, said Layne, but when onto joke, “I’m a really great orienteer and I found some really great tracks out there that don’t exist on the maps but will still get you to the check points, but it just took four hours instead of two”.
Layne also confirmed that she won’t be taking up paddling after the Challenge is over. “I think I’ll stick to surfing. Paddling 14 kilometres is just punishing, I’m glad it’s over.
On Day 2 of the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, competitors will head to Cradle Mountain and teams will go to the very top to the bottom, taking in the spectacular views over two mountain legs, two kayak legs and one run leg.
Results – Day 1
1st Richard Ussher / Braden Currie, Team discovertasmania.com 04:51:40
2nd Alex Hunt / Mark Hinder, Team Pure Tasmania 05:20:35
3rd Jarad Kohlar / James Pretto, Team Swisse Active 05:22:19
4th Guy Andrews / Ben Allen, Team Rexona 05:41:20
5th Ken Wallace / Courtney Atkinson, Team Red Bull 06:35:42